The federal 25-year import rule means that these iconic Japanese and European modern classic cars can now be imported to the USA with relative ease
We’re now at the end of the first month of the year, and let’s be honest with each other - this January hasn’t been the finest start to 2024, has it? The United States and the United Kingdom have gone to war in the Middle East, and the world stands on the cusp of a global conflict with Russia.
Anyway, at least there’s some good news out there for US car enthusiasts. This year, they’ll be able to import never-available cars built in 1999 thanks to a federal government law. This piece of legislation dictates that vehicles that are at least 25 years old can be brought Stateside “without regard to whether it complies with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards."
Note, however, that the car’s 25 years are based on its date of manufacture. With that in mind, a car made in November 1999 can only be imported in November 2024. In short, you can now live out all of those Gran Turismo 2 fantasies you’ve harboured since the late 1990s.
Unfortunately, you’re not as young as you once were.
Here’s the Dyler.com team’s pick of cars that turn 25 in 2024, and we cover everything from the Daihatsu Naked Kei car, to the iconic Nissan Skyline R34 GTR.
Don’t forget to tell us in the comments which one you’d buy!
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI
Production run: 1999 - 2001
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI never officially reached the shores of the United States when it first launched in 1999. Essentially an upgraded Evo V, the standard VI GSR received a more aggressive appearance and improved cooling, whilst the RS models were fitted with titanium-aluminide turbine wheel to take the 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine’s power from 276bhp to 330bhp. The Tommi Mäkinen Edition or ‘TME’ is the one to have, and was a limited edition produced to commemorate the Finn’s four consecutive WRC titles he claimed from 1996-to-1999. To mark them from the standard cars, the 2,400 TME machines received a more aggressive body kit, red Ralliart mud flaps, an improved suede-trimmed interior with plenty of ‘Tommi Mäkinen Edition’ stitching, and white Enkei wheels to reflect those worn by Mäkinen’s WRC car.
Nissan Skyline R34 GTR
Production run: 1999 - 2003
Like the Lancer above, the Nissan Skyline GTR R34 is ‘90s JDM icon. In no small way helped by being the poster car for Gran Turismo 2, the machine was also described by Jeremy Clarkson as “one of the greatest supercars” on the planet during its heyday. The GTR R34 trimmed the excess of its predecessor - the R33 - and was powered by Nissan’s mighty, twin-turbocharged 2.6L RB26DETT; a torque-y, muscular engine. Inside, the GT-R could be specced with a multifunction display denoting the car’s vitals and - amongst other things - an G-Force metre and a lap timer. Of the 11,579 cars produced, V-Spec, V-Spec N1, and M-Spec Nür models are the ones to look for. In 1999, Nissan test driver Kazuo Shimizo set a lap time of 7:52 minutes around the Nürburgring Nordschleife. At the time, this made the R34 GT-R the fastest production car ever to lap the fearsome German circuit.
TVR Tuscan Speed Six
Production run: 1999 - 2006
Now defunct, TVR was a British carmaker responsible for making loud, brash, sports cars, which served as the antithesis to the more dynamically polished offerings purveyed by the likes of Porsche and Ferrari. Yet despite their shoddy build and fearsome natures, TVRs have a unique character and appearance, which makes them an endearing-yet-brave choice amongst their owners. The Tuscan Speed Six was front-engined, and rear-wheel drive with a lightweight fibreglass body placed atop a lightweight tubular steel chassis. The Tuscan Speed Six’s soundtrack , which is akin to God clearing his throat, comes courtesy of a series of in-line six motors spanning from 3.6L to 4.2L, whilst available body styles are either a two-door targa or two-door convertible. Go on, if you think you’re hard enough.
Production run: 1999 - 2005
The Audi A2 was Ingolstadt’s unibody aluminium supermini, and was - unfortunately - ahead of its time. Weighing between 895 and 1030 kilograms, the lightweight A2 was considered a revolutionary package, as it distilled the Audi qualities of reliability and quality down into a small package. Unfortunately, Audi’s ambitious move to incorporate aluminium and other alloys into a mass market car proved to be the A2’s downfall - the bespoke parts the car required were simply too expensive to produce, and Audi lost EUR 7,000 on each one made. In turn, this also made the A2 expensive to buy. Nonetheless, the Audi A2 is widely recognised for being the first mass-produced aluminium production car, and it paved the way for other aluminium Audis such as the first-gen TT, and the second-gen A8. The A2’s lightweight nature also gave cars with the three-cylinder 1.2 TDI models outstanding fuel economy. Whilst performance was sluggish - this particular engine took almost 15 seconds to reach 60mph! - the smallest-engined A2 returned anything from a respectable 78.4mpg to an outstanding 94.2mpg.
Production run: 1999 - 2003
Before it became the 306bhp super hatch it is today, the first-gen Audi S3 was a relatively simple affair. Available as a hatchback only, the earliest S3 was based on Volkswagen’s A platform, which it shared with the Mk4 VW, Mk1 Škoda Octavia, and Mk1 SEAT León. Under the hood beat Audi’s turbocharged 1.8L in-line four, which started life with 207 bhp. From 2001 onwards, the engine was tuned to produce 222 bhp. Perhaps most controversially, the S3 had a Haldex four-wheel drive system. If you’re not well-versed in Audi parlance, this means that unlike Audi’s permanent Quattro system, the Haldex made the S3 front-wheel drive for the most part and the 4WD would kick in depending on the surface grip levels. Finding a decent first-gen S3 may be difficult these days, but if you do come across one, you’ll be taken back to a simpler era of hot-hatch. Audi’s general sense of quality from this era was sublime, too.
Porsche 996.1 GT3
Production run: 1999 - 2001
Thankfully, we as a species have developed, and the Porsche 996 is no longer seen as the unloved 911. Released in 1999, the GT3 was the hardcore version of Porsche’s eponymous sports car and was created purely with performance in mind. To bring weight down, Porsche did away with the rear seats, side airbags, sound deadening, and air conditioning system. Whilst the naturally-aspirated 3.6L motorsport-derived engine produces a modest - at least by today’s standards - 355bhp, the 996 GT3 was capable of a top speed of 188 mph thanks to its low kerb weight.
Toyota Crown (S170)
Production run: 1999 - 2007
The Toyota Crown has been part of the Japanese carmaker’s line-up since 1955, and the 11th-gen car, the S170, is one of the most sought after. Happily for US car collectors, they can now buy one. The Crown was available with a series of engines starting with a series of dual-overhead cam in-line sixes. This started with a 2.0L, and topped out with the flagship 3.0L 2JZ, which powered the much-loved Toyota Supra A80. Towards the end of the S170’s life, Toyota also bolted on a mild hybrid system to the 3.0L for improved smoothness. The trim levels available were the ‘Athlete’ with its sporting aspirations, and the more luxurious ‘Royal’. Until 2007, Toyota also made a wagon version of the Crown. Given wagons are scientifically proven to be the coolest cars of the lot, this is the one to have.
Mitsubishi Proudia (First-Gen)
Production run: 1999 - 2001
One of the stranger-titled JDM cars on this list but not the strangest, the Mitsubishi Proudia takes its name from a portmanteau from ‘Proud’ and ‘Diamond’. The Japan-only Proudia was Mitsubishi’s answer to the likes of the Toyota Crown and the Nissan Cima. This tech-laden luxury sedan features all sorts of Japanese comfort goodies such as a four-zone climate control front and rear, “Quiet Body” construction to soak up vibrations from the road, an on-board TV system, and Mitsubishi’s Super Executive Seat System, which vibrated to soothe and massage the rear occupants. Also available in the limo-spec ‘Dignity’ trim, this first-gen Proudia is the only Mitsubishi in the brand’s history to be powered by a V8 engine; a dual-overhead cam 4.5L V8, in fact. Oh, and one more thing - the Proudia is super rare. During the first year of production, just 383 were manufactured.
Production run: 1999 - 2004
And here we have the winner for the car with the strangest name on the list - the Daihatsu Naked or “Neikiddo” in Japanese! This little Kei car took its name from its body’s exposed hinges and bolts, whilst the steelies and ridged doors afforded it a rugged appearance. Inside, the ruff ‘n tuff theme carried over courtesy of plastic mouldings on the dashboard, which reflected the design of the original FIAT Panda. The Naked - with its tiny 658cc petrol engine - was also available as a four-wheel drive and a turbocharger.